SF Gate Slips It In

Last weekend’s gang rape at Richmond High School was almost bound to happen. All it needed was a spark – the elements were already there. […] Take the poverty-driven frustration of inner-city Richmond, a youth street culture that glorifies thugs and applauds degradation of women, and the desensitization of young men through violent video games, music and language, and you have a template for trouble.

Richmond gang rape seen as nearly inevitable – SFGate.com, Nov 1, 2009

Blah blah no scientific studies proving causation blah blah what about the parents blah personal responsibility blahdy blahdy blah. Setting aside the question of since when the fuck gang-raping teenagers next door to a high-school became “inevitable”, you know where I stand. It’s a horrible story and we’ve seen stories like it before; what’s new to me is the casual mention of violent video games (along with those other evergreen bugaboos, popular music and uncouth language) as an “everybody knows that this causes” font of young male barbarity. This isn’t even one of those insipid scare pieces about violent games and how “some people say” they’re dangerous corruptors of youth. Our author, one Kevin Fagan, up and tosses that little fauxtoid in there like we’ve all long since agreed that before continuing with his explanation of how some gang rapes are just bound to happen.

I’m disturbed, and more than a little upset by this casual assumption. On the emotional level, it’s pretty insulting to have my hobby just lumped in with poverty and thug life as a root cause of teenaged gang rape. And on the intellectual level, it’s really messing with me that reporters can get away with this sort of thing without an editor stepping in and asking for a little more accountability or restraint in these kinds of accusations.

And even if you want to allow that sometimes lazy, shitty reporters need a way to fit a couple more commas into their preposterous run-on laundry lists of social problems, why the hell was that needed here? Did the author truly think that growing up in the murder capital of California, with gangs hanging out next to your school and grinding poverty all around you wasn’t desensitizing enough? Seriously, in an article trying to probe the roots of a horrific crime in the depths of the East Bay ghetto, he had to turn to video games and music to find his culprits? Never mind that this is in a town with the highest per-capita murder rate in California, a town where you can literally walk down the street from a high school to get a fucking gang’s opinion of the day’s news:

“If we’d gone over there earlier, before it was over, those mother- would have been shot. For real,” said 24-year-old Chuckie Pelayo, leader of a pack that hangs out at the corner of Hayes Street and Emeric Avenue, one block from the rape scene. “We’ve all been to prison, and we know the code of how you’re supposed to behave. These younger guys, they don’t know the code.

Even fucking gang members are backpedaling from being remotely associated with this type of crime. How do you think gamers, musicians, and people who invent new swear words should feel?

What’s hilarious to me is reading a breezy indictment of the violence in other media from the medium that invented “if it bleeds, it leads”. Games and movies are violent because violence is the most basic, easy-to-understand form of dramatic conflict; exactly the same reason that the papers and TV news always run stories about gunfights ahead of stories about the economy. For fuck’s sake, this very article decrying the desensitizing effects of violence in the media spends four paragraphs describing the brutal rape of a 15-year-old by ten other people.

Anyone? Bueller?